How to be a pack leader

Domestic dogs evolved from wild dogs that lived in a pack environment. Because they evolved as pack animals, they do best when they live in a home with clear leadership. Pushiness, demanding behavior, uncooperativeness, anxiety, over-attachment, fears, and separation problems, can all indicate the lack of a clearly defined leadership within the home.

Simple changes to your routine interactions in handling can lead to a calmer, happier, better-behaved companion explanation!

  1. Stop free feeding. Unless otherwise directed by your dog’s veterinarian. Divide food into meals and allow the dog 10 minutes to eat before picking up and putting away the food until the next meal.


  1. Do not tolerate your dog charging to the front door to greet guests. Manage the behavior by putting a leash on so you can take control, placing the dog in a crate, or by making your dog stay on a bed or “place.”


  1. Take responsibility for starting and stopping games. Take favorite toys and keep them out of reach. Bring them out for play and put them away when you end the game. Appropriate chew toys should be available to your dog at all times. Chewing is a natural way for your dog to relieve stress and boredom.


  1. Do not allow the dog to pull or lunge forward on the leash. Keep your dog under control and manage your walks. Practice about turns or halting and waiting for your dog to relieve leash tension as directed by your trainer.


  1. Practice yielding exercises to teach your dog to move out of the way. Insist that your dog gets off of the bed or furniture when requested. Contact your trainer if your dog tries to control space by growling, bearing teeth, or snapping at you.


  1. Practice having the dog wait at doorways or other narrow spaces. You can choose to permit to go through, or you can make the dog wait until you go through first. Don’t allow the dog to bolt in front of you or block your access. Use body blocking or a leash as needed to accomplish this until your dog has better self-control at doorways.


  1. Ignore demands for attention such as barking, pawing, and nudging. Direct your gaze away from the dog, walk away, or cross your arms, but do not reinforce too much attention-seeking behavior. Have your dog learn to “sit” to get petted, get fed, or before playing with a toy. Please make a point to call the dog to you when you want to cuddle and give attention, not necessarily every time the dog seeks it.


  1. Invoke the 10-minute rule. Ignore your dog for the first 10 minutes of being with the dog after a separation. For dogs that suffer from significant separation issues, this needs to happen every time you re-enter the room you have left the dog in. Typically, this rule applies only when you arrive home from being away. Dogs are very keen on greeting rituals that help reestablish order and leadership. It would be best if you were calm and relaxed when greeting behaviors. Ignore your dog until he calms down and walks away, having decided you will not acknowledge him; Then is the time to call the dog to you and have him sit for some gentle praise and petting. This will help diminish jumping up behavior as well as separation issues.


  1. Once your dog has learned the “down,” “stay,” or “place” commands, use them. Practice 20 to 30 minutes while you watch TV or read. If the dog gets up patiently, put him back. Consistency pays off with a well-behaved, calmer pet that can stay in one place for a while.


  1. It is important that you can touch, handle, and groom your dog, practice frequent, short grooming and handling sessions. Reward your dog for tolerance. Do not start out with a struggle. If you are having trouble keeping the dog still, try putting a dollop of peanut butter on the front of the refrigerator at nose level to keep them busy while you work on grooming and handling. You may also leash the dog and tie him to something sturdy for a grooming session. Having the dog placed on a table or washer or dryer can also help maintain control.


  1. Do not reward your dog for jumping. Interrupt the behavior by asking your dog to sit or by simply walking through them and ignoring the soliciting for attention. You can also keep a leash or dragline on your dog and step on it to interrupt jumping.


  1. Many dogs, particularly those that are highly excitable or anxious, benefit by limiting verbal interaction with them. Too much talk and chatter often add to anxiety. Remember that your dog does not understand most of the words you speak, so it is often just noise that adds to the energy in the room. Limit talking primarily to basic commands or words you are trying to teach, plus consistent praise to let your dog know when they are doing something right.


Being a good leader is an attitude that conveys certain qualities. Good leaders are calm and follow through without being overly emotional.


Written by and used with permission of Robin MacFarlane

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